San Diego arrest cited as success story of just-revealed government partnership with AT&T
Last Updated: 97 days ago
SAN DIEGO - A program some describe as a secret government program to help collect phone records is now coming to light and with a San Diego connection.
In March 2013, Naval Base San Diego was locked down after a man who reportedly impersonated a two-star general hit an intelligence officer with his SUV. He left the base but was eventually tracked down through his cellphone.
According to a report obtained by the New York Times, the man got a new cellphone but was calling previous associates whose phone numbers were logged in a database.
That information alerted investigators.
"There was a pattern analysis done and they were able to locate not only where the gentleman was but enough they could arrest him close by," said Ron Bee, San Diego State University professor and national security expert.
According to the New York Times, the case is being cited by the feds as a success story of the Hemisphere Project, an unclassified program but one that has never been made public before.
It is a partnership – at least six years old – between anti-drug agencies and AT&T.
The agencies can draw upon AT&T's call logs dating back 26 years. Using subpoenas, investigators can swiftly get information on calls and locations because AT&T employees are embedded into the drug units.
"It should come as no surprise that law enforcement needs to work with telephone companies to catch criminals," said Bee.
The unveiling of the program comes amid a debate over the National Security Agency's hotly disputed collection of phone logs.
Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, warn the power can be misused since most of the subpoenas being used are administrative, granted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and not a judge.
Supporters point out that there have only been 4,000 subpoena requests in six years and the targets are very specific.
The Obama administration has acknowledged the size of the call database but say it has been useful in tracking drug dealers who constantly throw away their phones.
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